Charlie Cook On Air: Radio Everywhere

CCook-onair-sm111My daughter Jacki is a district manager for Verizon Wireless in Detroit. I want to unequivocally say no one works harder or has more stress than managers working for cell phone companies.

The pressure to get us to upgrade our phones and buy some accessory we really can live without is unyielding. You would think her dad would get some relief from the sales pressure. NOT the case. The day after Thanksgiving I apparently looked like the biggest turkey in the store as Jacki scythed her number one bulldog on me and I left with a $600 credit card charge and now pay close to $300 a month for all of the services. All of this pressure is working as today’s figures put smartphone ownership at 53 percent of Americans 12+. This number is up almost 10 percent in a year so the trend is accelerating and we can safely predict 7 of 10 will be a smartphone in short order.

The question for radio and records is how to maximize this trend even more than we have up to this point. I have finally come around and downloading (and paying) for music from Google Play. I wasn’t stealing music, just leaning totally on radio related apps. I have about 20 radio apps on my phone. More than I need. Rdio, TuneIn Radio and iHeartRadio take care of most of what you need. I have Sirius XM and many individual station apps too. But I also have HBO GO, Hulo, tv.com, Xfinity, and Netflix on my smartphone. Now DISH and Slingbox are making a real run for your data plan.

What I don’t have is an unlimited data plan. I know $300 a month and I still have a cap. That sucks, so I try to hook up to Wi-Fi when available. If I am having lunch by myself and want to get away from radio for an hour, I am likely to watch a TV program on my phone. I know in the gym folks on the treadmill around me are listening to purchased music, but most likely not radio on their smart phones.

My point is freeing the consumer from their car or a desktop computer has opened up so many more choices that radio and even buying music is falling down the list. If you grew up a nerd, like I did, trying to listen to out of market radio stations, then iHeartRadio and TuneIn are heaven sent. But if I were a regular consumer I wonder what this little hand held smart box would mean to me?

The National Association of Broadcasters has been out front on trying to get FM in smart phones. I have been a supporter of this in the past but now I’m not sure it is necessary or that it will be competitive enough for the consumer’s attention. There are just too many options to have something you can get in other sources, like a real live radio. One of my cell phones has a radio installed but I must use headphones to listen as the headphones serve as the antenna.

It gets back to how I seem to end more than half of my columns. It is all about content. If you do not provide content that can compete with HBO or Netflix or KIIS in Los Angeles, then you are not going to be a choice on anyone’s smartphone. And it serves you right.

Oh, and if you’re in the market for a Verizon phone, call me. I’ll give you Jacki’s number. But don’t expect a deal.
And finally, be sure to watch the ACM Awards show Sunday night on CBS-TV.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow.)

 

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